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FCW : May 15, 2014
Emerging tech 20 December 2013 FCW.COM 20 May 15, 2014 FCW.COM Lingo lesson: UAV or UAS? “There was no planning,” said Ruch, whose organization publicized the issue. “They saw the Border Patrol’s use of drones and said, ‘Oh, that’s neat.’” The Forest Service’s drones have now been slated for wildfire tracking, he added, but “it’s not clear if that tran- sition will take.” Drones on a budget Regulatory restrictions have all but forced civilian agencies to be followers in the realm of UAS development, but there’s a substantial benefit to letting the military and private industry take the lead: Interested agencies can pick up drones for free. The Interior Department’s USGS owns a fleet, valued at $15 million, of 20 T-Hawks (20-pound drones made by Honeywell) and 15 tiny hand-launched, remote-control Ravens made by AeroVironment. Although USGS has spent around $1 million on UAS operator training and sensor systems, it paid nothing for the drones themselves. “Our Ravens are from 2005,” said Mike Hutt, UAS project manager at USGS. “The military has moved three generations past those initial Raven models, so they’re sur- plussing the old ones to us.” That military/civilian cooperation has been a boon to USGS. The free Ravens “really helped us cut our teeth on what we can and can’t do with drones,” he added. NASA is another agency that is beat- ing swords into plowshares. The agency’s Airborne Science Program has been dab- bling in UAS since the early 1990s and currently uses such varied drones as the 25,000-pound Global Hawk, the custom- ized-for-science Predator variant Ikhana and the small, maneuverable Dragon Eye. NASA’s fleet of Dragon Eyes was acquired for free from the Marine Corps. “We take whatever we can get,” said Bruce Tagg, manager of the Airborne Sci- ence Program. “Our scientists are very entrepreneurial; they have their eyes on just about everything.” The nomenclature for unmanned flight has changed considerably over the years. In the early days, the term “drone” was commonly used, while “remotely piloted vehicle” came into vogue in the late 1960s. The term “unmanned aerial vehicles” (UAVs) was popularized in the 1980s, went through a brief politically correct stint as unpiloted or uninhabited aerial vehicles in the 1990s, and remains in common use today. Despite its prevalence, however, UAV is not the government’s pre- ferred acronym. The Federal Aviation Administra- tion adopted the term “unmanned aircraft systems” in 2005, and the Defense Department quickly fol- lowed suit. The change served a twofold purpose: recognizing that the FAA was now treating unpiloted vehicles as aircraft for regulatory purposes and acknowledging that unmanned aircraft are not stand-alone products. “This change in terminology more clearly emphasizes that the aircraft is only one component of the system,” DOD’s 2005 UAS Road- map states. The change was not a dramatic departure from established conven- tion because “the term UAS goes back to at least 2005 and probably further,” FAA spokesman Les Dorr said. But it emphasizes the limited autonomy of drones and their reliance on support elements, he added. UAS “denotes a ‘system’ that includes the aircraft, commu- nication links, ground station, pilot and observer,” Dorr said. — Zach Noble NASA/RANDYBERTHOLD On an expedition to study volcanic plumes in Costa Rica, NASA research scientist Rick Kolyer launches a Dragon Eye UAV.
April 30, 2014
May 30, 2014